Feb 182016
 

I’ve noted in blogs passim that the Department for Work and Pensions promised the Work and Pensions Commons Select Committee in 2009 that it would collate statistics on disability discrimination cases in the provision of goods and services.

42. There is a lack of data on the number of DDA cases on goods, facilities and services in the county courts, although a number of witnesses presume the numbers to be very small. We recommend that the Government monitors the trends in the number of cases taken and their outcomes. (Paragraph 264)

89. The Government will consider introducing changes to the county court IT system when there is an opportunity to do so. Until then, courts will be asked to manually gather information on DDA cases involving goods, facilities and services.

I asked for that information, in a Freedom of Information Request.

1) what changes to the IT system were considered, which were implemented and which were not, and why

2) what systems were implemented to ensure the manual collation in courts of data on DDA cases involving goods, facilities and services, when those systems were implemented, when they stopped and how successful they were;

Please provide all data collated on disability discrimination cases as a result of the above.

I’ve had the belated response from the Ministry of Justice today.

I would first like to take this opportunity to apologise to you for the long delay in our response which was caused by the need for the Department to conduct extensive searches to determine if any information was held. Also there was difficulty in trying to locate the best business unit to accurately respond. I therefore confirm the HMCTS (Her Maj’s Courts and Tribunals Service) was not compliant in its handling of the FOI request and breached section 10 (1) of the FOI Act, by responding outside the twenty day statutory deadline.

Having conducted extensive searches of all relevant areas within HMCTS and Ministry of Justice (MoJ) I can confirm that the Department does not hold the information that you have requested. To establish whether the information was held we have conducted a thorough search and made enquiries with the following business areas: HMCTS Equality Team, MoJ Corporate Equality Team, HMCTS Finance Directorate Performance, Analysis and Reporting, MoJ Strategic Reform, Forecasting and Finance and HMCTS Civil & Business Support Team.

When assessing whether or not information was held adequate and reasonable searches for the requested information were made of:

  • Electronic records were searched using the following key search terms: Disability Discrimination Act case in County Courts, DDA cases involving goods, facilities and services, DDA cases on County Court IT system, Changes to County Court IT system, DDA cases and DWP Select Committee, MoJ’s response to DWP Select Committee Report on DDA cases etc which would have revealed any information held.
  • Checks were made with policy officials responsible for the issue in MoJ.

If the information was held by HMCTS and or MoJ it would have to be held by the above mentioned business areas. It may help if I clarify that the information being requested is not held by HMCTS and MoJ because there is no specific legal requirement for MoJ to do so.

I think all that extensive, extensive searching indicates a degree of justifiable embarrassment experienced by MoJ officials at determining that it’s now 100% clear that despite promising a select committee that they would collate statistics on such cases, in actuality they did sweet FA and just forgot about their promise.

This is somewhat of a shame as it would have been useful to the select committee in its post-legislative review of the Equality Act. I was asked about statistics of such cases:

Q101 Lord McColl of Dulwich: … My question is: what proportion of cases are taken by litigants, both disabled and non-disabled people, without legal advice?

Doug Paulley: I have been trying to research this. Back in 2009, the Government responded to the Work and Pensions Select Committee, stating that they would manually collate statistics on various aspects of disability discrimination cases under what was then the DDA. They would then institute a computer system that would automatically record this. When I tried to research the proportions using the Freedom of Information Act, nobody seemed to know, to be frank. I have asked quite a lot of different organisations, and from what I can gather the requirement to notify the Equality and Human Rights Commission of cases is not universally complied with, to say the least. The Ministry of Justice has not recorded statistics on this. So I am afraid that all we can give you is anecdotal experience.

Is it contempt of Parliament to make a specific promise to a Select Committee to collate such statistics, then to not bother at all, do you think?

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